Letter to parishioners, 8 January 2021

Friday, 8 January 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In recent days the way in which we live our daily lives has changed, and yet we are also experiencing a distinct feeling of déjà vu. We are, once again, in an extended period of lockdown. As I think back to the beginning of the first lockdown I remember how the spirit of we’re going to get through this and it will all be over by September prevailed. Politicians and scientists spoke of it all coming to an end … soon. I also recall how people began to get weary of the restrictions and the fake news. I also recall the moment when it was announced that our churches would be closed, even to members of the clergy, and the horrified reaction of so many to that pronouncement. During this third period of lockdown things are different. Alongside news of a mutated and more virulent version of the coronavirus has come a palpable sense of fear. The numbers of infections have soared to the extent that a much larger percentage of the population is now known to be infected. Despite this, a major difference between the first lockdown and the third one is that churches are allowed to remain open for both private prayer and public worship.

Earlier in the week I wrote to you all to explain how I would be approaching the coming days in relation to the conduct of prayer and worship in our churches. Since writing that letter, some of you will have heard that there are churches in our deanery that have been closed, with all services going on line. Some of you may have read reports in the press of clergy ‘demanding’ that churches should be closed during this period of lockdown. It is clear from the emails and telephone calls I have received during this week that some of you would appreciate my reiterating the position in our benefice.

Firstly, could I say that the churches that remain open in our benefice are completely compliant with the Covid protection measures that were put in place during July of last year. Provided everyone who goes into our churches adheres to those procedures there should be no cause for concern. However, I am aware that some people are concerned for their safety, and that those people will make the choice not to attend church in the foreseeable future. I completely understand and respect that decision. However, our churches will remain open for private prayer on the same days and at the same times as has been the case since August. The Daily Offices will continue to be offered at 8.30am and 4pm each day. The only change to our pattern of public worship will come on Sunday mornings. From this Sunday, there will be only one service rather than two. These services will continue to alternate between Corby Glen and Irnham, and that service will be at 10.30am. Please continue to ‘book’ your place to ensure efficient Covid-compliant administration. It is my intention to introduce a weekly Zoom service, probably on Sunday afternoons, to help some who choose not to come to church to engage in live worship. The website continues to provide daily prayers and reflections for the use of all, and CD versions of all the services on the website are available on request.

We are travelling through difficult times but let us remain firm in our faith. Psalm 27 opens with these words: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Take comfort in our Lord’s answer to those questions: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Our Lord is with us. Let us hold firm to that real news. Let us journey through these challenging times in faith.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen